**Title: Advancing Computer Science Education for Girls in Europe: Breaking Down Barriers**
**Perceived Isolation of Computer Science Studied as an Isolated Subject**
Computer science is widely recognized as a fundamental skill for young people, comparable to reading, writing, and mathematics. However, in Europe, only 12 out of 37 countries that are part of Eurydice, the network explaining education systems in Europe, include computer science as a required subject in primary schools. This limited integration of computer science into the education system presents barriers to providing equal opportunities for all students to access a computer science education.
A report released in 2014 focused on factors influencing young women’s decisions to pursue degrees in computer science in the United States. The study highlighted encouragement and exposure as leading factors influencing their choices. To gain a culturally nuanced understanding of why the gender divide in European computer science persists, a new study commissioned by an organization expands upon this research. The study involved interviews and surveys with over 3,000 students and education leaders across Europe.
**Barriers Impacting Girls’ Participation in Computer Science Studies**
The study’s report identifies six key barriers that impact the participation of girls in computer science studies in Europe:
1. **Perception of Isolation**: Computer science is often perceived as an isolated subject rather than a skill to develop. However, when integrated with other subjects, 41% of girls express interest in studying computer science.
2. **Importance of Role Models**: Role models play a crucial role, but it is not only about having more of them. Girls and young women need to be exposed to a fair and varied representation of relatable identities, such as age, gender, sexual orientation, race, attainment, and ability, throughout the education pipeline.
3. **Lack of Teacher Support**: Educators often lack the support they need to engage students in computer science. They may lack the depth of knowledge, resources, or time needed to teach computer science effectively, as around two-thirds of European education systems at the lower secondary level employ teachers specialized outside of computer science to teach the subject.
4. **Disconnection from Real-Life Applications**: There is a disconnect between what students learn in school and what computer science looks like in everyday life. Students are not aware of how computer science can be useful across other subjects and their personal interests.
5. **Lack of Parental Support**: Parents, who greatly influence their children’s success, often struggle to support them in computer science. Many parents do not understand what computer science entails and lack the confidence to discuss it with their children.
6. **Limited Peer Networks**: Peer support, especially for girls, is essential in building confidence. 20% of surveyed students in France and Romania expressed that they would feel more confident in their ability to learn computer science if more of their friends were interested in it.
**Collaborative Efforts to Address Barriers**
Several initiatives across Europe have been working to address these barriers. For example, “Code Plus” in Ireland has provided hands-on coding workshops, workplace visits to the tech industry, and career panel discussions to over 10,000 teenage girls. This initiative aims to encourage them to consider careers in computer science. In 2022, “Fondazione Mondo Digitale” in Italy and “Parent Zone” in the UK ran parent outreach initiatives to educate parents about the importance of computer science skills for their children’s future.
However, despite these efforts, there is still much more that needs to be done to systematically address the barriers identified in the report. The organization responsible for the study remains committed to the shared mission of providing all students with the opportunity to pursue computer science education. They emphasize the importance of supporting young women in becoming future tech creators and leaders.
**Conclusion: Working Towards a Bright Future**
The report on barriers in girls’ participation in computer science studies in Europe provides valuable insights. It is hoped that these insights will inform and inspire action from various stakeholders, including teachers, parents, caregivers, nonprofit leaders, and policymakers. By addressing these barriers collectively, it is possible to create a more inclusive and diverse tech sector, unlocking untapped talent and economic opportunities for all.